Small-scale fishers are uncertain about the implementation of the small-scale fisheries SSF) policy, that many have gone so far as to apply for long term commercial fishing rights in the long-line and net-fishing sectors.
Wilbur Cloete from Olifantsdrift in Ebenhaeser on the north West Coast is one such fisher who applied for long term net-fishing rights and was successful.
“I registered as a small-scale fisher when the Department came around to register and verify the small scale fishers,” said Cloete.
“I also applied for long term net-fishing rights to catch harders at sea, I must collect my permit in Lamberts Bay, which will be for the next 15 years.”
Cloete is a net-fisher who targets harders in the Olifantsrivier in Ebenhaeser, but said that he is happy that he has been given a permit to fish at sea, since it will give him more sea days during the year.
“I will now have to buy a bigger boat and also new fishing gear that will be more suitable for fishing at sea and to catch more fish.”
“I will give site to three men on my boat, and hopefully I will be able to make a success of this right that I have been given.”
Cloete has been a small-scale fisher all his life, and has been on the Interim Relief (IR) system since its inception, and says that he would like to be part of the small-scale fisheries policy.
“With this new right that has been given to me, I will have to struggle on my own to make it a success.
In the small-scale fisheries policy, we will work together as a community, and as a fisher you will not be all on your own, trying to make ends meet.”
Cloete admits that although the long term right is more sustainable, in the long run that there are many things that are lacking that will put him on to the road of success.
For instance, he said that he does not have a big enough boat yet, and that he does not have the gear to fish in the ocean.
All of these are daunting challenges that he still needs to overcome, and which he is willing to take on to make a success out of the fishing right that has been granted to him.
“When the Department eventually implements the SSF policy, and they offer me the opportunity to fall under the SSF policy, I will gladly do so.”
The only worry Cloete has is what will happen to his long term rights, his wish is that it should become part of the communal right of the small-scale fishing co-operative he would belong to.
In Melkhoutfontein, Stilbaai on the South Coast, fishers also applied for long term fishing rights in 2013 already, because no hand-line rights were issued during this period of the FRAP in Stilbaai.
According to Ron Gelant and Henry Europa, the chairperson and secretary of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) in Stilbaai, the fishers are very unhappy when it comes to fishing rights.
“We have been applying for Interim Relief for a long time now, the last time fishers here got IR was with IR7, and now we only get rights for white-mussel and red-bait (rooi-aas), which we cannot cut from the rocks,” said Gelant.
Stilbaai, like so many places seems to be suffering from a hang-over from Apartheid, where whites live, usually wealthy and well-resourced in one part and the blacks in the other part, usually poor with little resources.
So what we have is that the white fishers are the boat owners, and the black fishers from Melkhoutfontein have to work for them on their boats, and as in the days of apartheid, they are the only ones who get the hand-line fishing permits.
“In 2013, 19 people were given hand-line permits, and they all are from Stilbaai, except for five small-scale fishers who got permits.”
Europa said that three of these were new applicants and two were medium-term rights given to the fishers from Melkhoutfontein.
Due to financial and other constraints, Europa said that these fishers never exercised their rights to catch fish on their permits.
The 2013 FRAP caused major unhappiness, the department was taken to court, and the minister decided to settle out of court and indicated a willingness to listen to appeals from unsuccessful applicants.
“We are in Zone B, and nobody in Zone B was considered in the appeals when the minister finally published the list of the successful appellants,” said Europa.
“It has now been communicated to us that no further hand-line rights will be allocated to Zone B, not in the SSF policy also.”
“The remaining hand-line rights that will be allocated after the appeals on the FRAP 2013 will be 20 rights for Zone A and 5 rights to Zone C.”
Gelant and Europa strongly feel that the five fishing rights that sit with individual fishers from Melkhoutfontein that have not been utilised since its inception should be incorporated into the SSF policy.
They feel that there is a strong case for that, since the rights holders are not exercising the rights, and that the SSF Policy does make provision for commercial rights holders to be brought into the SSF Policy under certain circumstances.